Discoveries | Photographic Plates of Grafton Tyler Brown and a Catalogue from a Past Auction

Plate VIII - VICTORIA HARBOR, B. C., from the foot of Fort St., April 3, 1883. Steamer Dakota entering.

Plate VIII – VICTORIA HARBOR, B. C., from the foot of Fort St., April 3, 1883. Steamer Dakota entering.

Antiques often help us put the missing links of the past together and give us a better insight into an era that was once forgotten. In this case, the link is made nearly 130 years later.

In March 2010, Witherell’s Auctioneers & Appraisers featured a set of rare documents and lithographs, belonging to Grafton Tyler Brown. One of the items in this lot was a catalogue from June 25th, 1883 which lists a number of paintings that Brown painted in Canada. The paintings depict sceneries from various locations of British Columbia, and the catalogue gives short descriptions of these locations.

Today, Witherell’s announced that they have discovered a number of photographic plates that correspond to the paintings that were listed in this catalogue. Estimated at $300-500 each, the plates will be featured in their upcoming Antiques and Fine Arts Auction, which will be live through November 1-15.

Grafton Tyler Brown

This plate in particular could be seen in the only known image of Grafton Tyler Brown, likely taken by the photographer of the catalogue.

Brown (1841–1918) was an African American cartographer, lithographer, and painter. Born to a family of freed slaves in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Brown taught himself the art of lithography at the age of 20. Soon after, he migrated to San Fransisco to seek better economic and social opportunities, and he eventually established his own lithography business. In 1882, he moved to Victoria, British Columbia for a short period of time. After he came back to United States in 1884, he worked as a painter and a draftsman in various cities in the northwest. Brown died in Minnesota in 1918.

Discoveries | An 1864 Letter from General James H. Wilson to General Ulysses S. Grant

Michael Locati with an 1864 Letter from General James H. Wilson to General U.S. Grant

Michael Locati with an 1864 Letter from General James H. Wilson to General U.S. Grant

One of the joys of the antiquing business is finding the hidden meaning in the objects we deal with everyday. In many cases, the history and value of items can be difficult to discern: made opaque by years of sequester in homes, collections, even in storage, antiques often lose their history of ownership and become hard to place in the flow of time. Sometimes, though, the importance of items is impossible to miss:  on a Saturday Morning during a free appraisal day at Locati Auctions in Maple Glen, Pennsylvania, a nice older couple brought a collection of letters that had descended in their family for valuation. Included in their collection were a number of letters to Benjamin Franklin and a letter from General James H. Wilson to General Ulysses S. Grant, two of the most important items sold in Locati Auctions’ October Sale.

The letter, measuring 5 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ and in excellent condition, is a rare piece of American History. Meant to introduce the Captain to the General, it reads:

“War Department, Cavalry Bureau, Washington, D.C. Feb. 6th, 1864, Major Gen. U.S. Grant, _____ Mil. Div.____ . General, allow me to introduce Capt. Price, ordinance officer of this Bureau. He is sent west on duty connected with his office, Will you be good enough to have such facilities as he may need furnished to facilitate the performance of the duty assigned him? Very Respectfully, ___ ___ ____. J. H. Wilson”.

At the back of the letter, Ulysses S. Grant wrote instructions to a subordinate and ended his command with his signature. The lot ultimately sold for $1,800 with buyer’s premium after 7 bids.